Van was confused and decided to focus on his studies the following week, instead of Claire. He even avoided any of the places he might run into her and stayed mainly in the room and taking walks in the forest behind the campus. He knew running away from his problems wouldn’t solve anything, but secretly he wished someone else would solve them for him. On Friday, after his last class of the week, he was walking by the cafeteria when someone called his name.
“Van!” Van stopped walking and turned to see Claire running toward him. She caught up to him with a smile on her face. “Hey!”
“I haven’t seen you all week.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Yeah, me too. My classes have been crazy with midterms coming up, but . . . you haven’t called.”
“I’ve just been doing some thinking.”
“Oh.” Neither of them said anything. Claire’s smile disappeared. After a few minutes, she turned and started walking away. Van closed his eyes. Selfish bastard.
“Claire, wait.” Claire stopped and turned around, her eyes sad. “I’m sorry. It’s just . . . I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents. I miss them.” Claire walked back to him. “It’s been hard, and each year I feel like I’m losing them more.” He felt bad about lying to her, but that was a small lie compared to his big secret. Claire reached up and touched his cheek as he looked at the ground.
“You’re so strong, though.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I’ve never seen you cry. You know, sometimes it’s good to let it out.” Van turned his face away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I’m not as strong as I look. It may appear that way, but . . .” He turned back around and looked at Claire. “I don’t think I’m the kind of guy you want.”
“Why do you say that? How do you know what kind of guy I want?”
“Just not me.”
“You must have really loved them.”
“Your parents. You’re hurting inside, Van. You haven’t healed from their death. I’m here. You can tell me.” Van stared at her incredulously. “You can trust me. I’m choosing to be with you. I’m not going anywhere.” She took his hand and intertwined their fingers.